The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) “fast track” was passed by the House in a 219-211 vote on Friday. The Trade Adjustment Act (TAA), however, suffered a crushing defeat in a 126 to 302 vote.
TAA would extend a program providing assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a consequence of trade deals and add benefits for public and service sector workers. TPA and TAA are part of a single legislative package and both measures must be passed before the bill can be signed by the President.
Defeat of TAA keeps TPA from moving forward and allowing completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other free trade agreements currently in negotiation. The next TPP meeting is on hold until TPA is passed and signed by Obama.
Both measures have passed the Senate, but dozens of Democrats, siding with labor unions and led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, voted against TAA as a strategy to delay TPA. Pelosi, normally an ally of Obama, said “I will be voting to slow down the fast track.”
After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed a motion to reconsider the TAA, possibly this next week. If TAA passes in the second vote, the package will move to the President for signature.
In an appeal after the vote, President Obama said: “I thank the bipartisan group of Representatives who came together on behalf of America’s workers, our businesses, and our economy,” he said. “And I urge the House of Representatives to pass TAA as soon as possible, so I can sign them both, and give our workers and businesses even more wind at their backs to do what they do best: imagine, invent, build, and sell goods Made in America to the rest of the world.”
Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) applauded the defeat of TPA.
“Friday’s defeat of Fast Track in the U.S. House of Representatives should be a step toward reforming America’s trade policies to reinforce American manufacturing and to create good, family-supporting jobs,” said Gerard. “The USW and working people across America are asking the lawmakers who stopped Fast Track Friday to again stand strong for the do-over vote this week and reject all attempts to flip their votes.”
In a separate vote on Friday, the House passed in a customs bill that enhances U.S. trade laws including ones sought by the steel industry for more effective remedies against imports that are dumped or subsidized. The bill differs from the Senate bill and the two chambers must now reconcile the two versions.
“Passage of this bill today is a tremendous win for the steel industry, and a critical step in helping mitigate the harm from the surge in unfair imports that has severely impacted the American steel industry. The provisions will help ensure that the antidumping and countervailing duty laws remain effective tools for U.S. companies and workers to combat foreign unfair trade practices. If the American steel industry is to regain its pre-recession strength then the government must not let trade cheaters off the hook. Today’s customs enforcement bill stands up for American workers whose jobs are put at risk by global competitors who skirt trade laws,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).
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